Network slicing is a type of virtual networking architecture along with software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). A network slice is a managed set of network resources and functions that can be specifically configured to support a particular service or application. Networking slicing allows the creation of multiple virtual networks on top of a shared physical infrastructure.
The Need for Network Slicing
Today’s exponential data growth and the various types of mobile data (from voice and video to smart meters and connected cars) will burden communication service provider (CSP) networks and are driving the need to handle this traffic more intelligently. These diverse services each have specific performance requirements and require different pricing schemes. Network slicing together with virtualization is critical to supporting all these various market segments without requiring massive capacity upgrades to the core infrastructure. As such, the 5G system architecture will contain the functionality needed for dynamic, end-to-end network slicing.
Network Slicing … Now with vSSF!
But what about now … What can we do today to address these new market opportunities without crippling our core network? Well in today’s 4G networks some traffic slicing is being performed by using APNs. This, however, requires the CSP to configure many network elements and may even require coordination across different departments (i.e. many touch points). This leads to a complex process that is error prone, time consuming, costly to implement and inefficient to maintain.
Introducing the virtualized Slice Selection Function (vSSF)! The vSSF is a centralized control-plane application using a single-touch method that allows CSPs to automatically select specific slice resources based on the end user and operator configured policies. It can easily identify and steer specific traffic types to customized slice(s) – all without making changes to your existing APN configurations (i.e. no configuration changes to DNS, MME/SGSN, and SGW/PGW/GGSN).
The vSSF can use control plane information (IMSI, IMEI, location, APN, RAT type, etc.) and policy information (plan type, time of day, quota, etc.) to steer traffic to subslices within specific gateways.
Network Slicing with vSSF
APN Network Slicing APNs apply a logical separation from the device to the end service or external network (like a network slice). However with APN based slicing not only is it more complex due to the many touch points but each new slice requires a new APN.
vSSF Network Slicing
With virtual Slice Selection Function the impact to other parts of the core network is very limited. The vSSF can steer the traffic to specific gateways without requiring configuration changes to other nodes. The vSSF uses the control plane and policy information to offer a more dynamic finegrained slicing of network resources that are optimized to the specific functional requirement of a customer or application. Another great benefit of vSSF is there is no stranded investment, it evolves to the 3GPP Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF) which is part of the Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF) component of the 5G architecture.
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